SCAMS IN THE CITY

King Con Con­victed Again, Gets No Prison Time

Indonesia Expat - - CONTENTS - BY KEN­NETH YEUNG

Re­mem­ber Di­mas Kan­jeng, the mur­der­ous con­man who pre­tended he could cre­ate money out of thin air? He was con­victed of fraud this month, but re­ceived no sen­tence be­cause of a le­gal tech­ni­cal­ity.

The oily-haired swindler, whose real name is Taat Prib­adi, was born in East Java in 1970. In 2000, he started a mys­ti­cal cult and later claimed he could mag­i­cally in­crease peo­ple’s money. He was ac­tu­ally just run­ning an oc­ca­sional Ponzi scheme – dou­bling the money of some of his fol­low­ers by per­suad­ing new fol­low­ers to also hand over their cash and jew­ellery.

Many of his duped dis­ci­ples were given coun­ter­feit cash and fake gold. Lo­cal me­dia re­ports said he ac­cu­mu­lated a per­sonal for­tune of at least Rp500 bil­lion (then US$38 mil­lion) from his tens of thou­sands of fol­low­ers.

When two of his as­so­ciates threat­ened to ex­pose the scam, Taat or­dered his se­cu­rity guards to mur­der them. The first was killed in Feb­ru­ary 2015, the sec­ond in April 2016. Taat was ar­rested in Sep­tem­ber 2016 and charged with mur­der and fraud.

On Au­gust 1, 2017, Krak­saan Dis­trict Court in Probol­inggo, East Java, sen­tenced Taat to 18 years in jail for mas­ter­mind­ing the mur­ders. Pros­e­cu­tors had de­manded life im­pris­on­ment, but judges said the lighter sen­tence was jus­ti­fied be­cause the mur­ders were his first of­fense.

Both Taat and state pros­e­cu­tors ap­pealed the mur­der ver­dict, which was up­held by Surabaya High Court. The two sides then ap­pealed to the Supreme Court, which in Feb­ru­ary 2018 qui­etly re­jected both ap­peals. The Supreme Court’s on­line archive does not con­tain a copy of the ver­dict ex­plain­ing why the judges re­jected the pros­e­cu­tor’s re­quest for life im­pris­on­ment.

On Au­gust 24, 2017, Krak­saan Dis­trict Court sen­tenced Taat to two years in jail for fraud for scam­ming Rp800 mil­lion from one of his fol­low­ers, Pray­itno Supri­hadi. Pre­sid­ing judge Ba­suki Wiy­ono said Taat was spared a heav­ier sen­tence be­cause he was “al­ways po­lite and co­op­er­a­tive” dur­ing the trial – even though he had con­sis­tently de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

Once again, the two sides ap­pealed the ver­dict. This time, Surabaya Dis­trict Court in Jan­uary 2019 in­creased Taat’s sen­tence to three years. The two ver­dicts meant Taat was sen­tenced to a to­tal of 21 years in jail.

On De­cem­ber 5, 2018, Surabaya Dis­trict Court con­victed Taat of scam­ming Rp10 bil­lion from an­other of his fol­low­ers, Muham­mad Ali, who in 2014 had been promised his cash would be used for char­i­ta­ble pur­poses, and would be mul­ti­plied to Rp60 bil­lion.

Pre­sid­ing judge Anne Ru­siana said that although Taat was “legally and con­vinc­ingly” guilty of fraud, she could not give him any ad­di­tional jail time be­cause In­done­sian law does not al­low a per­son to be cu­mu­la­tively sen­tenced to more than 20 years.

What? Yes, let’s take a look at In­done­sia’s an­ti­quated Crim­i­nal Code. Specif­i­cally Ar­ti­cle 12. It states that im­pris­on­ment is ei­ther for life or tem­po­rary. It then stip­u­lates the term of tem­po­rary im­pris­on­ment is at least one day and at most 15 years, or a max­i­mum of 20 years in con­sec­u­tive cases. Para­graph 4 of Ar­ti­cle 12 states, “In no case the term of twenty years may be ex­ceeded.”

Thanks to that clause, Taat can­not be sen­tenced to fur­ther jail time. He ex­pressed grat­i­tude to the judge for her rul­ing.

Taat was not rep­re­sented by a lawyer dur­ing his third trial, say­ing he knew he would be con­victed. Nev­er­the­less, he ap­peared happy when ar­riv­ing for the fi­nal ses­sion. Af­ter be­ing greeted by some of his re­main­ing fol­low­ers, who kissed his hand, he smiled and gave a thumbs-up.

State pros­e­cu­tor Rach­mat Hari Ba­suki, who had rec­om­mended a four-year jail sen­tence, said he would ap­peal the de­ci­sion not to ex­tend Taat’s im­pris­on­ment.

FRUIT, SOUP, BEARDS

The trial heard de­fence tes­ti­mony from a spokesman for Taat, Yudha Sandi, who in­sisted the mys­tic re­ally could cre­ate money out of thin air by putting his hands be­hind his back. He also claimed Taat could ma­te­ri­al­ize grapes, ap­ples, ra­won noo­dles, meat­balls and soup. When the judge asked if the noo­dle soup ap­peared in bowls, Yudha replied, “No, in a plas­tic bag,” prompt­ing hoots of laugh­ter from some of those present. An­gered by the de­ri­sion, Yudha swore that his guru re­ally did have such pow­ers.

The pa­thetic truth is that Taat sim­ply per­formed ba­sic con­jur­ing tricks, pro­duc­ing money and food con­cealed in his robes.

The judges asked Taat to demon­strate his magic and he agreed to do so at a later date, but he then failed to show up for the next three ses­sions, claim­ing to be suf­fer­ing from ver­tigo, so the re­quest was dropped.

Also dur­ing the trial, it emerged that one of Taat’s as­sis­tants, Vi­jay, had re­cruited a mo­tor­cy­cle taxi driver to find seven el­derly men with long, white beards. The seven were brought to Probol­inggo and dressed up in robes, pos­ing as spir­i­tual fig­ures along­side Taat to con­vince peo­ple he was a holy man. The men, who in­cluded labour­ers and va­grants, were paid Rp5 mil­lion for their ef­forts. Vi­jay also re­cruited 10 sales pro­mo­tion girls, who were each paid Rp3 mil­lion to dress up as em­ploy­ees of the In­dus­trial and Com­mer­cial Bank of China (ICBC) to con­vince peo­ple to give their money to Taat.

NO CLO­SURE

Taat used some of his ill-got­ten money to es­tab­lish a com­pound and camp­ground for his cult at Wangkal vil­lage in Probol­inggo dis­trict. The site re­mains oc­cu­pied by hun­dreds of his de­luded fol­low­ers, still hop­ing he will mul­ti­ply their money.

The lo­cal chap­ter of the In­done­sian Ule­mas As­so­ci­a­tion (MUI) and other Is­lamic groups have asked po­lice and East Java’s gover­nor to shut down the com­pound, but to no avail.

MUI of­fi­cial Muham­mad Yasin ques­tioned why one any­one would still fol­low Taat af­ter he had been con­victed of fraud and mur­der. Why in­deed would any­one sup­port a cor­rupt, con­victed mur­derer? Money.

Why in­deed would any­one sup­port a cor­rupt, con­victed mur­derer? Money.

Cour­tesy of Me­dia In­done­sia

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